When she was 15, Vera Levison qualified as a New Jersey candidate for the United States Olympic swim team. Now 82 years old, she still swims five times a week and regularly competes at the National Senior Games.
“In those days, [the thirties] the states sent people to try out for the Olympics,” Levison said. “My mother didn’t let me go, because she said only bad women go to the Olympics.
“I came from the East Coast and there everyone swims. I grew up in the water and I’ve been swimming all of my life,” she said.
Levison serves on the Taos County Senior Olympics committee and encourages seniors to get active. “One of the best reasons to have [Senior Olympics] is to keep older people moving. It’s good for the heart and good for the soul to exercise,” she explained.
After careers as a research scientist and high school chemistry teacher, Levison retired in 1984. She moved to New Mexico in 1989 and now volunteers at the Holy Cross Hospital Library and “any little thing that comes up.”
Levison broke her femur a while ago and believes regular swimming helped her recover and allowed her to keep active. “About a month after surgery, I was swimming. I think that is what made it heal as well as it did, but I can only walk about a mile before it starts to hurt.”
Although Levison won six gold medals at last year’s games,winning isn’t her motivation for participating. “I enjoy the people,” she said. “I like the competition, but it doesn’t mean too much to me anymore. I don’t have much competition in New Mexico anyway, but the competition at national is good.”
Levison is the only athlete from Taos competing in the National Senior Games in Baton Rouge, Louisiana this year. She wishes there were more and hopes the Taos committee will be able to get more folks involved in the program.
“It doesn’t matter what you do as long as you do it consistently,” she said.